The word diamond is derived from the Greek word ‘adámas,’ meaning “untamed” or “unbreakable.” Diamonds are known to us since, at least, the 8th century BCE and are believed to be first discovered in the Indian Subcontinent.
Diamond is the hardest naturally found material on earth. It also has the highest thermal conductivity. Today, diamonds are used either as gemstones to make decorative items, such as jewelry or as a cutting and polishing tool in various industries.
Though diamonds are more valuable, they are relatively more common than rare gems such as alexandrite. The global annual production of rough diamonds was 139 million carats in 2019.
How Are Diamonds Described?
Diamonds are graded or described based on four characteristics, or four Cs; these are its mass (in carats), cut (symmetry, proportioning and polish of its design), color, and clarity (internal appearance). One carat is equal to 200 mg of mass.
The color of a diamond is affected by its chemical impurities and structural defects. The value of a diamond may either enhance or diminish depending on its color and intensity. For instance, white diamonds with apparent yellowish hew are graded significantly less valuable than colorless or intense blue and pink colored diamonds.
Below, we have compiled a list of the largest diamonds in the world. It includes historically significant diamonds, as well as those that are carved out of larger ones.
11. Golden Jubilee Diamond
Golden Jubilee Diamond
Weight: 755.5 Carats
Cut Weight: 545.67 Carats
Owner: King of Thailand
The brown-colored Golden Jubilee diamond is the largest cut diamond (of any color) in the world and about 15.37 carats heavier than the Cullinan I. Coincidentally, the Golden Jubilee was discovered from the same diamond mine (Premier Mine in South Africa) as the Cullinan.
The diamond was originally named the “Unnamed Brown” but was changed to Golden Jubilee by King Bhumibol, the former king of Thailand, sometime in 2000. The Golden Jubilee diamond has received a papal blessing from Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, the Buddhist Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, and Chularatchamontri, the Islamic head in Thailand.
Over the years, the Golden Jubilee diamond has been on display in several different locations around the world, including Basel in Switzerland and Palo Alto, California in the United States. It is currently located at Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
10. Millennium Star
The Millennium Star Diamond
Weight: 777 Carats
Cut Weight: 203.04 Carats
Owner: De Beers Group
The Millennium Star is currently the second largest known colorless diamond in the world. It was discovered in the year 1990 in Mbuji-Mayi district of Zaire, modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo.
The diamond was acquired by De Beers, a British diamond mining and retailing company, amidst a civil war in the mid-1990s. It was publicly displayed for the first time in 1999, as part of the iconic De Beers Millennium diamond collection.
The Millennium Diamond was displayed publicly for the first time in 1999, as part of the De Beers Millennium diamond collection. In 2000, during a De Beers diamond exhibition in London’s Millennium Dome, a robbery attempt was made on the Millennium Diamond.
In his book, Diamond Geezers, journalist Kris Hollington mentioned a detailed history of the diamond, including the attempted theft.
9. Great Mogul Diamond
A replica of Great Mogul Diamond | Image Courtesy: Wikipedia
Weight: 780 Carats
Cut Weight: 280 Carats
The Great Mogul, the world’s ninth-largest diamond, is believed to be discovered in 1650 from the Kollur Mine, located in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. It soon landed in possession of Shah Jahan, the 5th ruler of the Mughal Dynasty, who received it as a political gift.
For decades, the Great Mogul remained one of the most celebrated stones in the Mughal Empire. Sometime around 1665, Shah Jahan’s son Aurangzeb presented it to Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a 17th-century French traveler and gold merchant. In his journal, Tavernier described the diamond as; “The stone is of the same form as if one cut an egg through the middle.”
The Great Mogul diamond mysteriously disappeared in the mid-1700s and was never found, at least in its previous state. Many historians, however, believe that the lost diamond has been re-cut to create the Orlov diamond.
The Orlov, weighing over 189 carats, was found in the 17th century in southern India. It was named by Russian Empress Catherine the Great after Count Grigory Orlov, who presented the diamond to her as a gift. Since 1774, the Orlov is found on the Russian Imperial Sceptre.
Weight: 793 Carats
Cut Weight: 105.6 Carats
The Koh-i-Noor, also spelled as Kohinoor, is perhaps one of the most popular and controversial diamonds on earth. It was discovered, most possibly in the 12th century, from the Kollur Mine (located in Andhra Pradesh, India) and has been a part of many historically significant crown jewels and ornaments.
The diamond changed hands several times before it was acquired by the British Empire under Queen Victoria in 1849 and was transported to Britain shortly after. There it was re-cut from 191 carats to its current size in 1852. It is currently on display at the Tower of London’s Jewel House.
For decades, the Kohinoor diamond has been a source of diplomatic tensions between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United Kingdom, with each claiming to be its rightful owner.
7. Lesotho Legend
Weight: 910 carats
Lesotho 910 carat diamond is the sixth-largest gem-quality diamond in the world. It was discovered in 2018 in Letseng diamond mine in Lesotho, a small African nation surrounded by South Africa.
According to Gem Diamonds, the diamond mining company which owns Letseng mine, the Lesotho 910 carat diamond was sold for $40 million. It was not the first time that an expensive diamond was found in Letseng mine. In 2015, a 357 carat diamond from the same mine was sold of about $20 million.
6. Star of Sierra Leone
Original Weight: 968.9 carat
Star of Sierra Leone was a large gem-quality stone discovered near the Koidu town in Sierra Leone in West Africa. It is currently the fourth largest gem-quality diamond in the world. It is also one of the rarest type of diamond that has no chemical impurities. A few months after its discovery, the diamond was bought by a New York City jeweler for $2.5 million.
The initial cut-weight of the diamond was 143.2 carats. A later re-cut of the gem produced 17 smaller diamonds, thirteen of which are virtually flawless.
5. Excelsior Diamond
Weight: 972 carats
The Excelsior was the largest diamond in the world before the discovery of Cullinan in 1905. At the time of its discovery, the rough stone weighed 971 carats (about 194.2 grams) and shaped roughly as a leaf. It was found in South Africa’s Jagersfontein Mine in Northern Cape Province.
In 1903, the diamond was cut into 11 pieces of varying weights. The reason was that it was too large and expensive for any single buyer.
At that time, the decision to cut down the Excelsior into smaller pieces received widespread criticism. Experts have also expressed that the diamond should have cut to produce a single largest diamond.
In the 1990s, Excelsior I (69.68 carats) was sold for about $2,642,000.
4. 1,098 Carat Diamond
Weight: 1,098 carat
On June 1, 2021, Botswana based mining company, Debswana, discovered one of the world’s largest diamonds weighing 1,098 carats (219.6 grams). It is now the third largest diamond and is still unnamed.
3. Graff Lesedi La Rona
Front-view of Lesedi La Rona | Image Courtesy: Graff
Original Weight: 1,111 carats
Cut Weight: 302.37
Lesedi La Rona is the fourth-largest gem-quality diamond in the world. The diamond was bought by British jeweler Graff for $53 million in 2017, two years after it was discovered in Botswana.
In 2019, the diamond was cut and transformed into a single large diamond Graff Lesedi La Rona weighing 302.37 carats, and 66 smaller ones.
The diamond was initially named Karowe AK6, after the mine where it was found. Its name was later changed to Lesedi La Rona, meaning “Our Light” in the Tswana language.
The discovery of Lesedi La Rona was done using an X-ray enabled large diamond recovery machine, TOMRA. A single TOMRA sorter can scan 150 tons of material per hour.
2. Cullinan III
A portrait of Queen Mary wearing four of the largest Cullinan diamonds. Cullinan III is on her necklace
Weight: 3106.75 carat
Cut Weight: 94.4 carat
On January 26, 1905, a diamond measuring 10.1 cm long and 6.3 cm in width was retrieved from a mine in a small town of Cullinan, South Africa. It was three times as big as the Excelsior diamond. It was named after the mine’s chairmen at the time, Thomas Cullinan.
A few months after its discovery, the rough gem was put on sale, but it went unsold despite its soaring popularity. In 1907, the diamond was bought by the Transvaal Colony (a former British colony in modern-day South Africa) for £150,000 as a gift to Edward VII, the king of England.
Cullinan III, also known as Lesser Star of Africa, is a pear-shaped diamond and weighs around 18.8 g (94.4 carats) and is occasionally used by Elizabeth II, the queen of the United Kingdom. In 1911, Queen Mary wore four of the largest Cullinan diamonds, including Cullinan III during her first State Opening of Parliament.
1. Cullinan I: The World’s Largest Clear Cut Diamond
Nine of the largest diamonds cut from rough Cullinan (Cullinan I on top middle)
Cut Weight: 530.2 carat
In 1905, an enormous diamond weighing 3,106 carats was discovered in a mine located in Cullinan town, Transvaal Colony (part of modern South Africa). It was named the Cullinan diamond shortly after. At the time of its discovery, the Cullinan was three times the size of Excelsior diamond at 972 carats.
After King Edward VII received the Cullinan as a gift in 1907, he ordered it to be cut down and polished into several smaller pieces. As a result, the diamond was split into nine major and almost a hundred smaller ones.
The largest of the nine pieces, Cullinan I, is a pear-shaped diamond with a total of 74 facets (flat geometric faces). At a weight of 530.2 carats, Cullinan I is the eleventh largest diamond in the world.
Since 1910, the Cullinan I can be seen on top of the Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross, an ornamental gold rod held by the monarch during a coronation, which was redesigned to accommodate it.
In 1992, Cullinan I was surpassed by Golden Jubilee Diamond as the largest cut diamond in the world of any color. The former, however, remains the largest clear cut diamond. Cullinan I was valued at $2.5 million (about $51 million now) in 1908.